Are guinea pigs the perfect pandemic pet? Not quite, experts say

Fabian Busch

THE STAR/DPA – They can whistle and squeal, are very sociable and you never get tired of watching them use their teeth to mash up food: Guinea pigs are considered rather uncomplicated pets. And the pandemic seems like the perfect time to get one.

In Europe, demand for guinea pigs has definitely been on the rise. “Many families have time now. The kids are home more often and need to be entertained,” said guinea pig specialist Andrea Gunderloch, who works for a guinea pig shelter in Germany.

However, the groups are warning that if you’re planning to adopt a guinea pig, there are some things to keep in mind. After all, the rodents may be small, but they also have some demands of their own.

An especially important aspect: Just keeping one guinea pig isn’t species-appropriate at all – they should be kept at least in pairs. “Guinea pigs are highly social and very communicative creatures,” said guinea pig breeder Niklas Kirchhoff.

Gunderloch’s shelter only allows people to adopt at least three animals. Experts recommend getting several neutered bucks or one neuter with several females. In all-female groups, one of the females often takes on a “male” leader role.

A redhead guinea pig. PHOTO: THE STAR

Spokesperson for the German Animal Welfare Federation Hester Pommerening thinks that guinea pigs are not necessarily the ideal pets for children.

Unlike dogs and cats, they cannot defend themselves, but lapse into a kind of rigor mortis in threatening situations.

Preuss, however, does believe that guinea pigs are generally suitable for children, as long as parents are aware that they are responsible for the little animals’ well-being.

The rodents can certainly become tame, she said. “But you need time to gain their trust. And even if that worked, they don’t like to be cuddled and carried around.”

With good care, guinea pigs can live for six to eight years. It is also important to know who will take care of the animals when you go on holidays, Preuss said.

If you decide, after careful consideration, that guinea pigs are just the pets for you, you can buy them from a reputable breeder, but there are probably lots at nearby emergency agencies and animal shelters that would surely be happy about a new home.